ORLANDO, FLA. — This year’s Capital One Bowl features the South Carolina Gamecocks, looking for its first 11-win season, and the Nebraska Cornhuskers, aiming for its third consecutive 10-win season.
The keys to this game will be running the ball, and stopping the run.
Nebraska is led by RB Rex Burkhead and QB Taylor Martinez. Burkhead rushed for 1,268 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2011. Martinez rushed for 837 yards and 9 touchdowns. Martinez also passed for 1,973 yards with 12 touchdowns and seven interceptions.
For Gamecocks’ fans who may have not followed Martinez, his skills are very much comparable to former QB Stephen Garcia. Martinez has his great moments, but can also look overwhelmed and make poor decisions.
South Carolina’s rushing attack is much more diverse, since the dismissal of Garcia and the knee injury to Marcus Lattimore.
It starts with QB Connor Shaw, who is the team’s third leading rusher with 483 yards and seven touchdowns. He passed for 1,218 yards with 12 touchdowns and six interceptions.
Shaw brought consistency to the position following the ups and downs of Garcia. He is a dual threat quarterback, making great plays running the ball, but surprising opponents with his passing ability.
Both Brandon Wilds and Kenny Miles expect to see time at running back Monday. Wilds filled in admirably for Lattimore, rushing for 486 yards, but struggled against Clemson and was replaced by Miles.
It has been a banner year for the Gamecocks on defense, but they are without former assistant head coach Ellis Johnson, who is off to be the head coach at Southern Miss. Seniors Melvin Ingram and Antonio Allen proved to be the key players all season long.
For Nebraska, you don’t have to pull out statistics or list players to talk about the ‘black shirt’ defense. But for the purpose of looking informed, both Lavonte David and Alfonzo Dennard have been key members to Bo Pelini’s defense.
This game will come down to who wants it more. In this scenario, you look to coaching, and the edge goes to Steve Spurrier. He’s back in the state he has had so much success in, Florida, and is looking to get South Carolina its first 11-win season.
Gamecocks win this one, based on the diversity of its running game. Expect a big day from Connor Shaw. Gamecocks 27, Cornhuskers 21